To communicate with the Deep Self… we resort to symbols… and the actions of ritual that translate abstract concepts into the language of the unconscious. ~ Starhawk, The Spiral Dance
Summertime is wonderful, especially here in the milder climate of the Pacific Northwest, but the lack of structure can leave some folks feeling a bit out of whack. By this time in the summer, the days are shorter, but the heat does not let up. Balance is not one of the priorities of this season, and while it is fun to shake up the routine from time to time, the abundance of unstructured time and general excesses that Summer tempts us with comes with its own challenges. We can feel unmoored, adrift, unsure of what to do with ourselves. Conversely, we can over-schedule, letting daily routines slide in favor of making the most of the summer months.
Yes, we all need a break from routine, to refresh & rejuvenate. The brain & body need rest; it’s an essential ingredient in physical health as well as mental, emotional and spiritual health. It's when we let the helpful structures of our lives go that we start to struggle. Shabbat is the perfect example of a healthy boundary around unstructured time*: 25 hours in which I only do the things I want to do, and nothing that I feel I should do (with the exception of keeping the fur baby & human child & myself alive, obviously). But it can’t be Shabbat every day.
The Hebrew calendar month of Av, which begins at this week’s new moon (July 28th & 29th), carries this energy of depletion while the moon grows, but once the moon is full, the energy shifts to gazing towards the future with hope. Because of these two dynamics at play, Av is a month in which rituals are particularly grounding and useful. Ritual is just routine + intention, and it’s not hard to find moments in your day that you can infuse with it: making coffee, washing your face & brushing your teeth, doing your Physical Therapy exercises, etc... All it takes is a dedication to be mindful as you go through those motions. Once you’ve noticed the ways in which your body moves as you go about these routine tasks, begin to slow it down; feel it in your body. Experience it with your senses. Breathe. You’ll likely feel different, changed a bit afterwards, which means ta-da! You did a ritual!
Ritual is the way we communicate with our Deep Self, our souls, our Neshama in Hebrew. Neshama, “the one who listens.”
Your soul is waiting for you to speak to it in the language that it knows and understands. Take some time this moon to infuse your unstructured time with some easy structure. Ritualize the things you already do, and introduce your soul to them, let your Neshama listen, and touch, and smell, and hear, and taste them. Show your Neshama what it is like to live in your body, so that the two can become more closely attuned. Infusing these long summer days with a bit of ritual might be just the thing for helping you to add some helpful structure to all of that unstructured time.
*for some, Shabbat is a time that is highly structured. What I describe here is my typical practice.